Response to Overcoming Racial Prejudice
To the author of Overcoming Racial Prejudice,
Other readers please see the formentioned to blog before reading ahead.
Good post, but I think that you have missed a couple of points.
I was first introduced to the studies that you described above in the book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell explained, like you, that white participants in these studies had a hard time linking black faces with positive attributes. Gladwell also described white people’s inability to control their initial judgment of black faces more negatively than a white faces, implying that whites are unknowingly racist.
However, Gladwell went on to explain that the results were no different among black participants. Black participants in the same studies had equally racist tendencies toward other Blacks. They too had trouble identifying black faces with positive attributes and showed an equally strong tendency of trying to control their negative reactions toward black faces.
This evidence makes me question your suggestion that familiarity with others “eliminates the tendency to see others in terms of generic stereotypes.” Most black people are certainly most familiar with other Blacks. Demographic studies show that Blacks predominately live in areas with black majorities, go to black churches, and participate in mostly black organizations. If your reasoning that familiarity “allows you to see them as similar to you- no matter how different they appear” is true, it would imply that black people see other Blacks as having similarly negative attributes. When your reasoning is applied to the results of the studies presented in Gladwell’s book, it suggests that black people understand that they should not be strongly associated with positive attributes. It would legitimize the claim that Whites are better than Blacks. Blacks are certainly familiar with other black people, but they still link white faces with positive attributes.
We all know that white people are not better than black people. In fact, as you pointed out, there are no real genetic differences between the “races.” So if a lack of familiarity is not creating racism, what is?
I would argue that racism does not come from people not knowing or accepting other ‘races”. I believe that racism is the product of history. The unknowingly racist tendencies of Whites and Blacks result from the deep rooted idea that Blacks are inferior to Whites in America, dating back to slavery. This historic perspective of blacks is perpetuated by the popular representation of black majority prisons, crime rates, and white dominated universities.
What will change this historically false idea? TIME. We now know the idea of “races” is an empty one. It will just take time and the equilibration the “Black” minority and “White” majority in socio-economic status. I think that the word “race” will quickly fade away when that is achieved.
I hope that it happens sooner than later.
Thanks for the post. Very thought provoking.